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Laser Lines and Wipac create 3D printing efficiency

13 June 2016

Laser Lines helped one of its automotive customers bring 3D printing in-house, saving both time and money.

Wipac designs and manufactures exterior lighting products for the world's premium car makers including Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls Royce. 

It prides itself on being a technology leader in this market, with design, development, test and manufacturing facilities producing very high quality products. 

A lengthy process

One area where Wipac felt it could improve efficiencies was in the manufacture of masks for headlight housing. This was a manufacturing process that Wipac outsourced and, as Dan Cobb, production engineer at Wipac, explains, a process that could be quite time consuming. 

After doing the design work in-house, the company would send the design out for quotes which obviously took time to come back, and then there would be another wait of two or three weeks to have the design manufactured. If, after trialling the product, Wipac found it wasn't suitable, it would be back to square one again, meaning it could take weeks or even months to get just one correct mask produced.

Laser Lines advice

The team at Wipac knew that bringing 3D printing in-house was one option available to them and turned to Laser Lines for advice. As Dan states, Wipac had a relationship with Laser Lines for almost ten years as the company uses laser marking devices and so approached them to do some 3D printing tests.

The team at Laser Lines conducted a large amount of work, producing numerous prototypes, recommending the different materials Wipac should use, as well as looking at the different cost involved in producing each mask. This enabled Wipac to carry out a comprehensive cost and time analysis, which convinced the company that bringing the technology in-house was the right thing to do.

Jane Gibbons, technical sales engineer at Laser Lines, explains further that when the company started to talk to the team at Wipac about bringing 3D printing in-house, it became clear that the business had a very specific set of requirements.

One size definitely does not fit all in the world of 3D printing and, to guarantee the most cost- and time-effective solution for Wipac, as well as the maximum ROI for the business, it carried out these extensive benchmark tests so it could underpin the technology recommendations with robust, quantifiable facts.

3D printing concept
3D printing concept

Hours not weeks

Since investing in the Fortus 250mc from Laser Lines, Wipac has seen huge cost savings as well as a massive reduction in the time taken to produce the masks. Rather than weeks to produce a mask, the team can now manufacture a new mask in 24 hours. 

Due to this quick turnaround, the business is benefiting from increased flexibility. As Dan explains, if the first iteration of a new design of mask doesn't work perfectly once produced and trialled, Wipac can tweak the design and have another one made in 24 hours. 

The Wipac business as a whole was extremely receptive to bringing the technology in-house, particularly when it could see the cost, time and efficiency savings that the device would bring, and it has been a great success. 

Dan concludes by saying that at the moment, Wipac is currently creating two or three masks each day and there's a pipeline of work scheduled which will require the machine to run solidly, 24-7, until April, a fact which highlights just how quickly the technology has become an integral part of the company’s day-to-day operation.

Laser Lines brings 3D printing to classrooms

Once confined to the worlds of industry and academia, 3D printing is finding itself increasingly at home in a rather different environment: the school classroom. More secondary schools in the UK are recognising the importance of rapid prototyping technology and the major role it’s playing in the manufacturing sector in particular.

This is definitely the case at Merchant Taylors' School in Middlesex where Laser Lines was delighted to install a whole suite of Makerbot 3D printers alongside an Objet30 Prime, enabling the pupils to experience additive manufacturing on a regular basis. 

3D printing is revolutionising manufacturing and, with the availability of ‘plug-and-play’ machines, which are both reliable and robust, and a generation of technologically switched-on teachers at the helm, there’s no reason why 3D printing shouldn’t be revolutionising education as well. 

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